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George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #3 – Preston vs Aston Villa

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George & Amy head to Preston v Villa for another hot date!

– “Amy liked how he “defended his honour”, proving she’s definitely lost touch with reality after watching too much Game of Thrones.”
– “We both opted for the classic British pie: Chicken Balti. The flavour was very nice, but the contents-pastry ratio was slightly skewed”
– “Goal-line clearances are always an exciting part of the game, but John Terry’s in the first half obviously tipped the scales for Amy as she shouted: “Yes John, I actually know who you are!” at the top of her voice.”

Two sides with realistic hopes of promotion matched up at Deepdale on Wednesday night, with Aston Villa hoping to continue their fine form at the expense of a Preston side desperate to put an end to their poor run. Following Chorleygate, we took every precaution possible to stay dry for our next game. I wore the most waterproof coat and shoes I have whereas Amy took it a step further, pulling out all the stops by wearing her big woolly hat. We didn’t address the most critical factor though: we were going to a mid-week match… in November… in the North.

On the Road: Even though both of us only finished work at five, a direct train from Manchester Piccadilly took about 45 minutes so if you’re on a tight schedule, the journey is still feasible. We had to cut corners a little bit though and wolfed down a tea of sour cream and onion Pringles and Celebrations on the way. To be honest, that’s a dream meal- but soon my gut will be bigger than my future. As they say, “you can take the man out of uni, but you can’t take uni out of the man”. Preston train station’s surrounding area was geared up ready for the festive period with the Christmas lights put up to begin a decent journey to the ground. It’s about a half an hour walk to get to Deepdale from the station but there’s plenty of cashpoints and decent looking pubs/restaurants to get your fill. There were plenty of car parks on the main roads as well should driving be an easier option for you.

Venue:

When walking from the station, you turn onto Deepdale Road and suddenly see the floodlights from the ground towering over the terraced housing. It reminded me a lot of Goodison Park, which is similarly hiding in and around the local area and not detached from the actual town or city. Around the away end (the Bill Shankly Kop), there was an interesting statue of Sir Tom Finney as well as a sports bar named in his honour. The statue is also a fountain which was interesting but unrealistic, given the game would definitely have been called off due to a waterlogged pitch as the Preston and England legend slides in for the ball. Inside the ground, there was a nice mix of modernity and tradition. An old-fashioned clock, for example, is the only form of timekeeping available for any nervous or bored supporters to guess how long is left. An adult ticket price also came in at £24, Over 65s could get in for £16, Under 22s for £15, Under 18s for £8 and Under 11s for just £2- kind of what you’d expect for most games at this level so no complaints there.

Cuisine:

As much as we may have enjoyed our unorthodox tea we were both looking forward to our pies so much we got one before the game rather than at half time. Aston Villa took over 2,000 fans, so there could have been a long wait for food, but the staff made sure that the queue moved quickly. We opted for a pie and drink combo for £5.50- not bad at all considering a bottle of Fosters on its own was £3.60. That’s probably punishment for me liking Fosters though in fairness. We both opted for the classic British pie: Chicken Balti. The flavour was very nice, but the contents-pastry ratio was slightly skewed in favour of the latter which isn’t what you’re after. It could’ve been a bit warmer as well, but then that’s understandable given that Preston will have had to have coped with a mass of supporters and can’t exactly hand make their pies from scratch in honour of the Great British Bake Off.

Clientele: Villa have always had a reputation for taking along a large and vocal following across the

country and they didn’t disappoint. Taking over 2,000 to a mid-week game is very impressive irrespective of how the team are doing in the league- cue the smartarses writing ‘Leeds would’ve taken more’ as their epic quest to get top comment on Facebook continues. Villa also had a lot of original chants which are great to hear. Referring to Alan Hutton as ‘the Scottish Cafu’ is absolutely class if a little unrealistic when comparing him to the world class Gary Naysmith at his marauding best in the mid-noughties.

The Match:

Villa started the brighter and were rewarded when James Chester headed in after ten minutes from a Robert Snodgrass delivery to the delight of the travelling faithful. The goal seemed to shake Preston into life though, and they started to take control. They could’ve had a penalty as well- Sean Maguire was taken out by James Chester with replays showing that it probably should’ve been given.

Villa’s second after 30 minutes was a sucker punch- Josh Onomah pounced on a defensive mistake about 50 yards out before squaring for Robert Snodgrass to tap the ball in. The home side continued to enjoy large amounts of possession but couldn’t break through before being caught on the break a couple of times. Villa failed to convert though, Albert Adomah particularly guilty of wasting a good chance after being put through. Overall, the 2-0 win was well deserved for Villa as they pushed closer towards the top two.

Man of the Match:

John Terry and James Chester Two centre halves with Premier League experience really showed their class and marshalled the defence excellently. Keinan Davis also showed great maturity at just 19, offering a constant outlet whether holding the ball up to link play or by making selfless runs into the channel to relieve pressure.

Amy’s Man of the Match: Keinan Davis When confronted by a Preston defender, Davis went head to head with him and showed he wasn’t going to back down. Amy liked how he “defended his honour”, proving she’s definitely lost touch with reality after watching too much Game of Thrones. Rumours that Davis is set for a January transfer to the Night’s Watch remain unfounded.

Highlight of the Night: As I ran through some of Aston Villa’s notable players and history etc. before the game, Amy nodded along and seemed to be absorbing some of the information. Thirty seconds later, she turns to me and asks who we were supporting. You can lead a horse to water…

Highlight of the Night: Amy’s Highlight of the Night: Goal-line clearances are always an exciting part of the game, but John Terry’s in the first half obviously tipped the scales for Amy as she shouted: “Yes John, I actually know who you are!” at the top of her voice.

Photo credit should read: Joel Ryan/PA Wire

Finally, shout out to our mates Michael, Joanne and Tom who also came to the match, making it even more enjoyable for us. Cheers for trebling our usual readership as well of me, Amy and my Mum by reading!

George and Amy

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Top 5 Footballer Adverts

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As a youngster nothing was more exciting than seeing the latest Nike or Pepsi advert on TV. It meant one of two things, either there was a World Cup around the corner a new pair of boots of boots were about to hit the shops and you could start trying to convince your mum that not having the very latest in boot technology would hamper your flourishing career

Footballers appearing in big budget adverts during the mid 90’s early 200’s was an ever presents,  surprisingly though, as the global commercialisation of the game has continued to sky rocket the trend of our favourite stars donning cowboy boots for a ribbana free kick or a five-aside game on a rusty cargo ship seems to have subsided. So with the World Cup on the horizon it seemed only fitting to have a throwback to some of the best/worst from the last 20 years.

Manchester United and Real Madrid – Pepsi

As a brand, Pepsi is better than Coca-Cola. End of.
 
Before you go accusing me of contrarianism or anything, watch this masterpiece and tell me I’m wrong.
 
What more could you want from an advertisement? David Beckham looking every inch the Hollywood leading man, Gary Neville in an ill-fitting Stetson, Iker Casillas getting mugged off by a horse, completely non-contextual cameos from Rivaldo and Bobby Carlos for the sake of name-dropping – it’s all here.
 
It’s big corporation global capitalism at it’s finest, and it’s a damn sight better than plastering Santa all over an articulated lorry.
 

Gareth Southgate, Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle – Pizza Hut

 

 
There are two things English footballers excel at: missing penalties and being shockingly wooden in TV ads.
 
Pizza Hut figured this one out sooner than most, and for this tasty slice of unpatriotic commercialism, released in the wake of Euro ’96, they assembled the holy triumvirate of 12-yard bottle-jobs: Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, and Gareth ‘definitely has incriminating photos of somebody high up in the FA’ Southgate.
 
The boys sit down for a bite to eat at everybody’s favourite affordable family pizzeria with a free salad bar, but poor Gaz is so ashamed of his woeful effort against the Germans he’s stuck a brown paper bag on his head. The poor lad’s a wreck. Surely it would’ve made more sense to order one in.
 
Stu and Chris aren’t helping matters either. They’re being properly cruel, hypocritical bastards, but a piece of that famous pie and Gaz couldn’t care less. He whips off the bag, looking like the fifth Inbetweener, and he’s feeling ‘much better now’.
 
Good for you Gaz. Forget about the millions of people up and down the nation who might never see England in a major tournament final because you can’t do your job properly. At least you’re alright. Mate.
 
Proof that food solves everything, and that you can put a price on national pride.
 

100 Goals – Nike

 
Arguably the quintessential football advert.
 
Following on from Nike’s iconic cage tournament, the premise is simple. This time the world’s greatest footballers play a no holds barred game of first to 100, inexplicably in the hull of cargo
ship.
 
Eric Cantona, the living embodiment of charisma, parades around like the lovable maniac he is, while the likes of Thierry Henry, Francesco Totti, and Hidetoshi Nakata fling themselves around doing things us mere mortals can barely even dream of.
 
Then Luis Figo channels his inner iceberg from the Titanic, sinks the ship, and dooms them all.
 
And what a soundtrack by the way.
 
 

The Last Game – Nike

 
The year is 2014 (presumably early 2014 because David Luiz hadn’t disgraced himself enough yet for it to be laughable that he’s in this advert as one of the best players on the planet) but it also must be the future because we have the mind-boggling technology available to clone the aforementioned best players on the planet? Just go with it.
 
A bad man in a turtleneck wants to take the joy out of football by creating a super-race of perfect players that don’t make mistakes. For some reason the powers that be are cool with this, even as attendances dwindle down to literally nobody.
 
Slowly the greats of the modern game are driven out and into normal jobs. Wayne Rooney, a disturbingly accurate amalgamation of Tony Bellew and Beans from Even Stevens, is a trawler-man. Neymar, in a characterisation worthy of Pixar, becomes a flamboyant hairdresser. Andres Iniesta just chills by a windmill.
 
To cut a long story short, over the course of five and a half epic animated minutes, the footballing goliaths we all know and worship, and Tim Howard to appeal to the American market, rise up and give the army of passionless dullards a right good thumping.
 
It’s like The Incredibles meets Escape to Victory. Top work.
 

Manchester United – X Men Apocalypse

 
The theory goes that there are an infinite number of parallel universes with an infinite number of realities. Thankfully, we live in the one where a deal struck between corporate types from 20th Century Fox and Manchester United forced Wayne Rooney to act opposite James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence in a trailer for some X Men sequel or other.
 
No words can do it justice, every line is a quotable piece of inadvertent comedy gold. Poor Wayne tries and tries to act. Oh god he tries, but it’s never happening. Surprised, angry, heroic, they all just blur into one confused expression and a slightly raised intonation at the end of every sentence.
 
The delivery of lines such as “Anything for the team!”, “Apoca-who?”, and even a simple “Hello Charles!” are as remarkable as anything Wazza has ever achieved with a ball at his feet, and a firm reminder that acting should be left to the professionals.
 
That being said, if we locked the greatest minds in the world in a room for a century and told them to produce something more horrifyingly watchable, they couldn’t, and for that alone it should be commended.
 
As Wayne himself would say, “Bloody Hell!”

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Netflix’s new football drama 21Thunder is the greatest/worst thing you’ll ever see.

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We open on a shot of a battered jeep speeding along a potholed road, ramshackle shanties teetering in the background. Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a caption reads. Inside the jeep a mean looking African man cradles an assault rifle, while another man in a flash suit relays details of a business deal to some guy called ‘Albert’ over the phone.

Cut to ‘Albert’. Montreal, Canada. A bald, continental man paces the centre circle of an empty football stadium with all the floodlights on. We are not told why he chooses to conduct business here and not in his office, but he does. Seems like a waste of electricity really. Pound shop Pep is worried about the snakes from Malmo undercutting him. His associate tells him that they were delayed because the army blocked the road this morning. This too seems strange given that there hasn’t been a war in the Ivory Coast since 2011.

Now our flashy friend, in a lovely lilac shirt, arrives in a village where a football match is being played on a dirt pitch. The army appear to have stopped blocking the road too. They’re watching on in full uniform, despite having not seen active service for seven years. But this is why lilac-shirt is here, he’s scouting a player for Plastic Pep.

And this lad looks the real deal. He’s absolutely rapid. Although you can’t help feeling that he looks absolutely rapid because the extras he’s running with have been told to jog to make him look faster. Nonetheless, ‘Albert’ is blown away by the footage he’s sent of this boy running half the length of a dirt pitch in an African village, and tells his well dressed partner to pull the trigger on a deal immediately, complete with $15k signing on bonus. For a youth player. In the MLS. He even agrees to let the lad’s kid brother tag along for the ride.

Welcome to the batshit ludicrous world of ’21 Thunder’, Netflix’s series on the trials and tribulations of a fictional MLS franchise’s under 21s team. If you like your TV well thought out, realistic, and entertaining then look away now. But if you’re a fan of car crash television with hilariously bad footballing sequences and a surprising amount of narcotics felonies then buckle up, cause there’s eight whole episodes of this madness.

Next we meet Nolan Gallard, poster boy of the side. He’s making the greasiest bacon you’ve ever seen for his breakfast. Not sure what the team nutritionist would have to say about that, but if they operate on the same level that the rest of the backroom staff seem to they’d probably encourage it.

Quick aside, ’21 Thunder’ loves exposition. If there’s something to be spelled out, you can guarantee there’s a news report there to spell it out. And so we learn, while Nolan tucks into his plate of cholesterol, that Thunder have signed Manchester legend Davey Gunn. Whether Manchester refers to United or City is not specified. The show is like PES in real life. Not to spoil any future episodes for anyone, but the series finale features a friendly against London.

Also joining the Thunder staff is five time player of the year (not sure in what competition) and Olympic medalist (probably bronze because it’s also not specified), Christy Cook. Plastic Pep isn’t happy because she’s never coached and doesn’t have a penis, but the club’s feisty owner Ana insists she joins because it’ll be a ‘PR squirt fest’. Her words, not mine. Cook brings pearls of wisdom like ‘put your shoulder on an opposition player when you jump for leverage’. However did they manage without her?

Making up the rest of the Thunder roster we have the likes of Stefan Arnaud, or ‘Big Snacks’ to his friends, a womanising bully who looks about as much like a 21 year old as Dick van Dyke does.

There’s also Alex el Haddadi, whose trying to get into Cornell, captains the side, and happens to be literally the worst goalkeeper you’ve ever seen, and a guy I think might be called something Tran. It’s difficult to tell because nobody ever refers to him by his name and every time he speaks somebody talks over him. Tran has just been promoted from the under 18s and is given a bit of a rough time by Big Snacks at first, but I’ve got a feeling he might come good. Either way, he’s the best character and I’m firmly rooting for him in everything he does.

Highlights from the first episode include Nolan giving the ball away once in training and being made to run 20 laps, the new Ivorian signing’s little brother attacking a member of airport security for not letting him take some mysterious seeds through customs, and the weird mute guy who lives in the team condo and watches documentaries about giraffes.

Nothing can surpass Manchester legend Davey Gunn’s first training session though. One by one he asks the lads to try and beat him on the dribble. When Nolan nutmegs him, he gets up and elbows him square in the face. It has to be seen, words can’t do it justice.

Later that night, by way of an apology, certified lunatic Gunn invites Nolan to partake in an ‘hour of power’, in which they down a drink a minute for 60 minutes. It’s medically impossible, but ’21 Thunder’ doesn’t care for things like science or logic. All this happens the night before the first game of the season too.

Events take a turn when Nolan runs into childhood friend and stereotypical wrong’un Special K.

Special K. I shit you not.

I won’t spoil anything for anyone by giving too much away, but let’s just say that curfews are curfews for a reason and Nolan is bloody good at hopping fences.

Thunder then play their first game of the season against LA. Might be Galaxy, probably isn’t. Nolan has a shocker, the Ivorian, who we finally learn is called Junior, scores the best goal you’ve ever seen by a man in a pair of running shoes (no jokes, he’s wearing trainers), Davey Gunn is necking a glass of red on the touchline, and, as predicted, Tran is sensational.

Special K then sets fire to a car.

The show might be all about a team called Thunder, but it’s creators have captured absolute lightning, even if it is for all the wrong reasons.

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Match day with the Missus | Blackpool v Peterborough

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After the glasses of wine and chorizo pies of the Premier League, it was time to knock Amy down a peg and take her to experience some proper football once again. When I mentioned a trip to the beach, Amy had images of a last-minute flight to a beautiful, secluded, rural Spanish coastal town. Unfortunately, I meant a replacement bus service to watch some League One football in North-West Lancashire in the middle of February.

On the Road:
As usual, we opted for the train to Blackpool, running regularly from both Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria. An adult open return is about £20 so doesn’t set you back too badly. Surprisingly for a Sunday, the platform was absolutely packed- it was as if there had been a massive boxing match the night before in Manchester or something… Onto the train and Amy became amused at a billboard just outside Wigan advertising “Uncle Joe’s mint balls”. The smile was soon wiped off her face, however, when we rolled into Preston and realised we had to get on the replacement bus service. There’s work going on along most north-western routes for a few months so a heads up on that one- give yourself an extra hour or so on your journey if possible. It doesn’t really matter whether you get off at the Pleasure Beach or at Blackpool North- both stations are about a 20-minute walk to the ground. I would recommend making the most of your time there though, especially as you basically have to walk along the sea front to get to Bloomfield Road anyway. This was particularly exciting for Amy and myself as, growing up in the midlands, summer trips to Skeg Vegas were as good as it got for us. There’s plenty of decent places to grab a pre-match pint or some food- two in particular being the Manchester Bar and the Albert and the Lion. Both are right on the seafront, have a good, lively atmosphere and sell very reasonably priced beer.

Venue:

As mentioned, Bloomfield Road is easy to find whether walking to the ground or driving. It’s a nice away day, plenty of parking spaces as well as fitting memorials to Blackpool legends such as Stan Mortensen and Jimmy Armfield. The away end is situated around the back end of the stadium, facing towards Blackpool Tower and tickets can be bought on the door. By ‘on the door’, I mean a small green shed around the side of the stand- rustic. There weren’t any student priced tickets so a flat rate of £22 for an adult, £18 for 60+, £10 for under 19s and free entry for under 11s is on offer. Thank god Amy made an absolute killing on the arcades to fund our tickets for the match. It was sad to see how empty the stadium was when the game started, an entire stand deserted to our left. This is understandable of course, given the current situation at Blackpool. Many fans are refusing to fund the owners by attending home matches. The fact that Blackpool’s team and the pitch were in pretty average condition and yet there was a swanky hotel suite looming over the Jimmy Armfield end pretty much proves those fans’ frustrations.

Cuisine:


Back to basics with a pie this week and we weren’t disappointed. We went for the Cheese and Onion option- crisp pastry, flavoursome contents and a reasonable price of £2.50. Then again, with a four-star hotel physically inside the stadium, you’d hope the food would be decent. Barbaric we went for Cheese and Onion as well I know. The pints were pretty good too with a choice of Carling, Worthington’s or Kingstone Press on tap, all priced at £3. Amy opted for yet another hot chocolate and seemed to be enjoying it before chaos ensued. As we took our seats behind the goal, a shot from the training session fired over the bar and flew towards us. The shot hit Amy’s hot chocolate straight out of her hands and all over her. Still don’t understand how, even when under no pressure from the opposing centre forward, she opted to punch rather than catch the ball. A blind Simon Mignolet with no arms would’ve made a better effort at holding the shot- a terrible fumble from Amy.

Clientele:

A long way to come for the Peterborough faithful but about 300 fans made the journey north and did their side proud. They were relatively upbeat at the start of the game, especially when Posh took the lead, but those spirits were dampened as the game progressed and the standard of football dropped hugely. I get the feeling we just caught them on a bad day as, when they were in full voice, the fans were excellent and clearly gave the players a lift. The majority also stayed and clapped the players at the end of the game- regardless of whether your team’s played out their skin or have been useless, that respect is important. Hats off for that. Individually there were some funny moments from the away end as well. One fan made the same joke about Blackpool’s goalkeeper, Joe Lumley, calling him Joanna Lumley, and still found it hilarious four or five repetitions later. You could say it was an “absolutely fabulous” gag… I’ll see myself out. Another fan had one of those old football rattles you rarely see these days- swinging it around with the energy and randomness of Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd- very entertaining. Overall, Posh have a really decent bunch of fans. After “hotchocolategate” a few supporters checked if Amy was alright, even at half time when they saw her. That was a nice touch and one that I know was greatly appreciated.

The Match:


Peterborough were on the front foot from the get-go and the deadlock was eventually broken around the 20-minute mark, the lively Jack Marriott heading home from a cross to score his 25th of the season in all competitions. Posh were good value for their lead but didn’t capitalise thanks to some wayward shooting, putting the hotel guests above the stand in danger. Blackpool slowly grew into the game- especially down their left flank where Viv Solomon-Otabor’s pace and power was causing problems. In stoppage time that pressure told when the winger’s cut back was chested in by Blackpool striker Nathan Delfouneso. There was a hint of handball in the finish and the striker’s frantic look to the linesman may have inferred guilt.

Into the second half and the quality of the game dropped like Dele Alli with minimal contact in the penalty box. The pitch didn’t help, both sides were forced into long balls and, for Peterborough in particular, they didn’t have the personnel to suit that style. Poor Jack Marriott can only be about 3 foot nothing and yet was having to battle in the air with a centre back regularly mistaken for the Blackpool Tower. Few clear-cut chances were created, even with the added impetus of Peterborough frontman Omar Bogle. Amy had lost interest, searching for decent chippies as she, ironically, tried to warm herself up after spilling hot chocolate over herself. Final Score 1-1.

Man of the Match: Viv Solomon-Otabor
His distribution wasn’t always the best, but Blackpool’s winger offered an outlet at all times and was willing to take his man on at any given opportunity. It’s much more difficult for the opposition to defend if they’re facing their own net and Solomon-Otabor made that happen regularly. Special mentions for Blackpool’s technically excellent Jimmy Ryan and Peterborough’s two solid centre backs, Jack Baldwin and Ryan Tafazolli.

Amy’s Man of the Match: Viv Solomon-Otabor
He had a good game, but Amy has chosen Viv because predictive text turned his surname into “Solomon-iRobot” when I wrote his name down. She’s such a ducking idiot sometimes I swear.

Highlight of the Day:


Absolutely smashing the arcades. We were like Leonardo Di Caprio from the Wolf of Wall Street with all our tickets after taking the two pence slot machines to the cleaners. And just like Jordan Belfort, we got our hands on a massive pile of powder… we were gutted to find out it was only sherbet though. It’s amazing what fully grown adults will do just to get their hands on a stick of rock that you hope is only brown because of the food colouring added to it.

Amy’s Highlight of the Day:
The fish and chips after the game. If you’re after a classic, quality fish and chips then look no further than Big Fish Trading Co. Homemade fishcakes, chips, mushy peas and gravy all for under a fiver- what’s not to like? Amy’s research during the match was justified after this meal, setting us up for the long replacement bus journey home.

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